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20221204 – The Proof



The author defines this book as an expansive overview of the history of the idea of providing evidence as proof of statements in various situations when such statements define outcomes of legal processes, scientific and/or religious beliefs, and results of political competition.  He describes it as based on his “own experience decades ago as a trial lawyer dealing with the law of evidence on a daily basis, followed by more than forty years of teaching, studying, and writing about the law of evidence. This book is not about law, but it draws on the law as a source of occasional wisdom and more than occasional illuminating examples.” This review includes the discussion of the concept of evidence, an analysis of testimony in the broad sense, the discussion the validity of “expert opinion,” and, finally, the evaluation of human individuals that provide testimonies, their character and methods of reasoning, which in inevitably impact truthfulness of their testimonies.  



This book is a very detailed and pretty good review of the history of prof and evidence from its earlier forms to contemporary statistical and scientific methods. I agree entirely that such discussion is very important in our time when information flow is filled with fake news and sometimes “deep fake” documentary evidence. Unfortunately, the author has a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which clearly demonstrates the use of fake evidence at the beginning of the book when the author insists that Trump’s statement about election manipulation is absolutely false. As the prove, the author provides the statements of a couple of Republican senators. In reality, nobody really knows whether the amount of election manipulation was sufficient to change an outcome. The only thing that is absolutely clear is that the elections were conducted in an unusual way with the massive change in processes due to Covid. The author inadvertently demonstrated a typical mistake when the fight for pro and contra of a statement excludes the truth of the statement’s correctness or falsity being just unknown.

My attitude is simple – there are no ways to evaluate the correctness of a great many statements about the past just because no statement could fully describe complex reality, which always includes some contradictory factors. Therefore, the only way to deal with it is just to accept the idea that the most important is forward-looking development of the processes that would make negative results much more difficult to achieve. So, for example, for elections, it should be a secret vote by the voter, whose identity is proved just before the vote. This vote should be cast using unchangeable media such as paper and in such a way that nobody could have the ability to impact this vote or know how exactly this voter voted.

Other interesting points are quasi-scientific proofs and experts. Both these methods include complex processes and statements and are therefore prone to manipulation. This problem could be handled by attaching some kind of betting average of true/false predictions of outcomes to individual experts and their specific predictions. There is excellent research on the actual results of expert predictions that demonstrated results slightly worse than random. In brief, the truth of a statement is often in the eyes of the beholder, and there is not much one can do about it except for the simple (true/false) statements about the future that could verify an expert’s competence or lack of it thereof.


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